It's that quadrennial outburst of national fervor, commercial excess, poor taste, tedious, pedestrian business mixed with the emotional explosions and nearly unmatchable excitement of professionals at the top of their game doing what they do best on the largest stage on the planet.
C'mon, do you take me for a fool?
Of course it's not another damn U.S. federal election!
Who the hell would mistake those idiots for "top professionals"? Professional beggars and prevaricators, perhaps. Top of their fundraising game, maybe. But worth getting emotional about? Puhleese!Nope. It's World Cup time again.
It's always hard for me to blog about the Cup because it's just so vast, the multifarious tales and intrigues and lies and commonplaces and idiocies - did the Spanish goalkeeper get distracted by his hot squeeze broadcasting on the sidelines!? Ohimigawd!!! - makes trying to tease a single thread or two loose to mull over is like delaminating your skis while you're skiing on them. You can do it, but the effort and risk exhausts you by the time you're finished.So.
Let's just read some givens into the record, OK?
Lots of the games will be as dreary as any other professional sporting event, or much of your and my lives in general, in fact. Is every every workday a treat? Every weekend a funfest? Do you see the stars and the Sun whenever you make love?
The hucksterism will be appalling and incessant. I would remark that that is a feature, not a bug, of our Industrial lives, too. Try it - reach out, right now, as you read this. Can you touch something with a corporate logo on it? I'll bet you can.Our very lives are a marketing study. Why should we expect the World's Game to be any different?
Okay, what else.
There will be pretty women in skimpy outfits with national symbols on them. There will be obese men with similar apparel and larger breasts.
There will be a lot of snide, or offensive, or offended, comments about the breasts.
The breasts will not care, particularly, one way or the other.
There will a hurricane of bloviating about the entire business, and the entire world will seem to be caught up in talking about the games, talking about what others said about the games, or talking about something that happened at the games that had nothing to do with sport or soccer at all - Did you hear that Maradona called Platini a French bee-yotch and Pele' an ancient nobody? Ohmifuckinggawd!!!!
Speaking of breasts, the Brazilian women will, as always, manage to look completely covered while somehow deliciously bare, all the while sporting their national team colors.
Someone or two will fail, or blunder, spectacularly, and will be very publicly pilloried for it, reviled in a way reserved for ex-wives and homicidal dictators, their repentance and abasement demanded, their blood cried for...only to be forgotten by the time the groundsmen finish clearing off the pitch after the final match.
Everyone but the fans of one country will go home disappointed.
It will be utterly ridiculous, and excessive, and foolish. And we who love it will love it again, for all that we're old enough and wise enough to know better.
There will be silly mascots.But in order to feel that I'm earning my blogging keep, a bit of business.
One story I would like to tease out is the rich World Cup tradition of Bitching About The Official Ball.
Adidas, the German sports supplier, has provided an "official" ball as backed by FIFA for the World Cup (to go with the official soft drink, the official post-it note, the official t-shirts and drinking glasses, the goddamn official feminine hygiene products, so far as I know. We talked about the merchandising, remember..?) for 40 years. Every four years, for as long as I can remember, some of the players and the fans bitch, moan and whine about the ball. It flies too far, too fast, it wobbles in the air, it's a nightmare for the goalkeepers, it will produce a bucketful of soft goals.
And the first round of group games usually does, and since Alexi Lalas can't even pronounce "post hoc ergo propter hoc" this year's "Jabulani" ballis being blamed for everything from teen pregnancy to the blowout of Deepwater Horizon.
So far as I can tell the soft goals have been mostly the result of nerves, inexperience with teams and pitches, as well as with the ball. I don't think the new ball has been the cause. But I will say this;
I think this thing must take off like it has a rocket up its ass.
I've never seen so many rising shots, long crosses, and misses over the crossbar. The ball has some sort of textured or grooved surface that the maker says are supposed to make it stable in flight.
Weeellll...I don't know. The Wiki entry for it has a slew of quotes from players who hate it. And my observations do suggest that the ball tends to sail or rise more than the previous versions. Is that a problem. Depends, I imagine. I personally like the Real Madrid and Spain defender Álvaro Arbeloa's attitude to the whole controversy.
"It's round," he says, "like always."For all the publicized moaning about the low scores, the group games have had their delights; unlikely victors - Switzerland over Spain! Like having your seductive auntie leave your dashing uncle for the little brown man who sells loafers at the Payless Shoe Store - and shocked favorites, unhoped for wins and pathetic losses. Heroes, villains, wise men, fools...It's the World Cup, the Big Show, and I'll be there tomorrow at 4:30 a.m., enjoying every blowsy, merchandised, oversold moment.